POLICE plans to deal with budget cuts were mired in confusion yesterday after Crime Commissioner Anthony Stansfeld back-tracked on claims 400 officers could be lost.

The Police and Crime Commissioner claimed his comments to The Telegraph on Monday had been misinterpreted after Thames Valley Police Chief Constable Sara Thornton yesterday denied 400 officers could go.

Mr Stansfeld told the newspaper the force was “on course” to lose the frontline staff if plans for another £20m of cuts by 2018 went ahead.

But yesterday he said there was no immediate threat to police numbers, although he admitted officers may have to go later.

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He said: “What I said in The Telegraph was about 95 per cent right.

“What was said was that the money is equivalent to 400 police officers.

“Our budget for the next year is quite secure but we have to find £20m of savings over the next three years.

“If all the financial cuts that are forecast go through there will be cuts to officers but we do not know that for sure yet.”

Mr Stansfeld said he would use his position to prevent cuts as much as possible saying he hoped a reduction in officer numbers would not be necessary.

He added: “It is wrong to cut the police too much because it is part of the fabric of a civilised society.

“It is my job as a PCC to rock a few political boats and try to stop the cuts.”

Chief Constable Sara Thornton also denied 400 officers would be lost.

In a statement yesterday she said: “The recent Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary report, Policing in Austerity, showed that the number of police officers has reduced by two per cent in this force compared to the national average of 11 per cent. While I agree that the prospects for the next spending review are bleak, may I reassure the public that we are not poised to lose 400 officers.

“We need to find another £20m of cuts by 2018, but I and the Police and Crime Commissioner will be doing everything we can to find those cuts elsewhere and maintain officer numbers as much as possible.”

But Ms Thornton was unable to completely rule out cuts to police numbers in the future.

She said: “We will look at every other possibility before we cut officer numbers. At this stage in planning I can only say that we are highly unlikely to cut officer numbers next year.”

Mr Stansfeld said: “I agree completely with her statement. We both know what the facts are.”

Former Thames Valley Chief Constable Peter Neyroud hit out at Mr Stansfeld on Twitter, for what he called a “limited understanding of [the] link between crime and policing.”

But Mr Neyroud added: “Over the course of the next spending review I cannot see how the force, having done what they have done such as cutting back support staff, can do other than cut officers.”

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